The Blade Itself is the first book of The First Law trilogy. Written by UK author Joe Abercrombie, the book is a realistic, brutal and bloody look at the fantastic. The book starts with Logen Ninefingers fleeing from a group of Flatheads, and I was hooked from the get-go. Logen gets separated from his travelling group and each assumes the other died. He continues on his own. The next character introduced is Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, a crippled torturer with a dark past. The torture scenes from this book are bloody, but deeply enjoyable. Glokta is charged with getting to the bottom of a conspiracy by any means he sees fit. Enter Bayaz, the First of the Magi. He's a name everyone in the Union knows, but he's a legend, not a real person. Or is he? Finally, Jezal dan Luthar is a Captain in the army, born of high and noble blood, and training for the annual Contest, dreaming of glory and honor.
There are more characters in the novel, making fun and entertaining chapters to read and reflect on. Dogman. Ferro. West. Too many to write on, but they all have a roll to play in the plot. By the end of the novel it almost feels like this book is just an introduction or prologue to what is to come.
Abercrombie hints at magic, but nothing too deep. He writes of the First Law and the Second Law. He talks about the Shanka and the Eaters, never fully describing them, which is unsettling and immensely entertaining.
The writing style reminds me of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The use of profanity and vulgar words are frequent, but not over-the-top and do not detract from the story. Keeping the "magic" as a mystery is also like GRRM.
My favorite character is probably Glokta, but I'm equally intrigued by Logen. I can't wait to see where this story is going, especially for these two. Hopefully I'll get my copy of Before They Are Hanged soon. Overall, The Blade Itself is another reminder why the fantasy genre does not have to be boring and cliche. People like Joe Abercrombie, Pat Rothfuss, and Brandon Sanderson are breaking boundaries and re-defining the field. I can recommend this book easily to you, but be warned, it's brutal and will hook you in, kind of like the way a torturer's blade may pull your intestines out and have you screaming for more.